You can judge how good a Pho soup is by how much concentrated flavor
is packed in the broth while still retaining a clean, uncloudy, clear
broth. I like my Pho without Sriracha hot sauce or Hoisin sauce….I
really enjoy the purity of the chicken broth without anything to hide
its flavor and aroma.
There are 2 very important steps to a clear but intense broth – 1)
parboiling the chicken to get rid of the impurities 2) charring the
ginger and onion for a naturally sweet, robust flavor.
A note on fish sauce
– I prefer the Three Crabs brand. Choose a fish sauce
light in color…it should look like brewed tea. Anything darker than
that (looking like Coca Cola) is inferior quality.
1 whole organic chicken (4-5lbs)
1 whole onion, unpeeled and cut in half
3-inch chunk of ginger, unpeeled
(A) Broth spices
2 tbl whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 tbl sugar (or rock sugar)
2 tbl fish sauce
small bunch of cilantro stems only, tied in bunch with twine
(B) Accompaniments at table
1 lb dried rice noodles (about 1/4″ wide)
2 cups bean sprouts, washed & tails pinched off
cilantro tops – leaves and tender stems
1/2 cup shaved red onions
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha hot sauce
Place ginger and onion on a small baking sheet. The top of the onion
should be about 4″ from the oven’s heating element. Set to broil on high
for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occasionally, to get an even
char. The skin should get dark and the onion/ginger should get soft.
After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off the onion and use a
butter knife to scrape the skin off the ginger. Slice ginger into thick
In a large stockpot, fill with water and boil. With a sharp cleaver,
carve the chicken breast meat off and reserve. With the rest of chicken
whacking hard through the bones to get sections about 3″ big. The more
bone that is exposed, the more marrow that gets in the broth
(translation: rich, flavorful). You can even whack several places along
the bone just to expose more marrow. When the water boils, add chicken
sections (not breast) and boil on high for 5 minutes. You’ll see lots of
foam and "stuff’ come up to the surface. Drain, rinse your chicken of
the scum and wash your pot thoroughly. Refill with about 4 quarts of
clean, cold water.
Add chicken, chicken breast meat, onion, ginger and all of (A) in the
pot and cover. Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then
immediately turn heat to low. Prop lid up so that steam can escape.
After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers
when cooled and set aside (you’ll serve shredded chicken breast with the
finished soup). With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities
in the broth. Skimming every 20 minutes ensures a clear broth. Simmer a
total of 1-1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce
and or sugar.
Strain the broth, discard solids. Prepare noodles as per directions
on package. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soft noodles in
each bowl. Have (B) ingredients set at table for each person to add to